The Miami Heat faced the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon and came away with a six-point win. After a blazing hot first half, Boston tried to mount a comeback but fell short in those efforts.
Now, Miami sits two games up on Boston for the sixth seed and is tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed. Another win against the Celtics on Tuesday night could all but ensure Miami avoids the play-in tournament.
Here are three takeaways from the Heat’s performance against the Celtics on Sunday afternoon.
Jimmy Butler will dictate the Miami Heat’s playoff chances
Jimmy Butler only attempted one field goal after two quarters. The Heat had a 26-point lead and seemed to be in a great position for the rest of the game.
But the Celtics had something else to say, erupting for a third-quarter run. Boston also came out hot in the fourth quarter and it was easy to tell that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra wanted to win this game.
Spoelstra took Andre Iguodala out of the rotation and Butler entered the game. He took control and ended with 26 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists in 40 minutes of action.
That was an important moment that showed Spoelstra is willing to mess up his rotations to give his team the best shot at coming away with a win.
Butler’s 40 minutes were the most he played since March 21 against the Indiana Pacers. As we near the end of the regular season, Butler will start to play more and take control of games as he did against the Celtics.
It is almost playoff time and the Heat’s superstar player will determine what this team can become down the stretch.
Could Trevor Ariza be this year’s Jae Crowder?
Trevor Ariza has been an amazing pickup for Miami. He has scored 18-plus points in four of the last seven games and will be a huge piece to the team moving forward.
Last season, Jae Crowder started at the four position and put up great numbers with Miami. Ariza’s statistics are not as good as Crowder’s last year, but his impact has been almost the same.
It is impossible to replicate the absurd three-point shooting numbers that Crowder tallied, but Ariza’s energy and defensive abilities have solved the issue they had at the four spot all season.
The Heat essentially traded nothing to receive the 35-year-old forward and this reunion has been a long time coming. They almost signed him during the 2014 offseason when the organization lost LeBron James.
They will most likely rely on him down the stretch and he’s earned their trust moving forward. If Victor Oladipo doesn’t return, Ariza would be their prized addition from the trade deadline.
Now, they finally have him on their team and while he may not be Crowder or play up to his abilities, they have another player that bleeds team culture.
The Miami Heat’s defense must put together a full game
The Heat had an absurd first half when they scored 79 points but only scored 51 points in the second half. While this wouldn’t be an offensive issue, the Heat’s defensive issues were on display as the game went along.
Miami allowed more points in each quarter and eventually allowed 40 points in the final period of the game. Boston scored 71 points in the second half, which is not okay for the Heat if this is a sign of things to come.
They have been streaky on both offense and defense, but if they can have the bench production that has been present lately, the only thing they need to do is become consistent on defense.
Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and Butler should lead the offense, while Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro lead the bench unit, but the defensive end of the floor needs to be a team effort.
Robinson has been a better defender in the starting lineup this season, but the team itself can’t be too relaxed when it comes down to crunch time. Teams with championship hopes, especially those with multiple defensive stars, can’t allow 40 points in the fourth quarter
The Miami Heat pride themselves on being a defensive team and they need to ride that confidence into playoff time with teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks as possible first-round matchups.